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Fact sheet


Gold is a dense, unreactive metal, which does not naturally form compounds with many other elements. As a result, it is usually found in its elemental or native state.  It occurs in veins in rocks or as weathered-out grains that have become concentrated in river-based sediments called ‘placers’, that are rich in heavy minerals. Gold has been recorded from many localities within Cornwall. Most are placer deposits that have been worked by tin-streamers.

This is the largest nugget of Cornish gold yet found.  It was reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, February 1808:

"A beautiful specimen of virgin gold, lately found in a tin stream-work in Cornwall, is now in the possession of Mr Wills, silver-smith of Truro.  It is about the length and thickness of a lady’s finger, though less regularly formed, and weighs above two ounces.  Its intrinsic value is equal to nine guineas; but, as a specimen, it is invaluable…"

Shortly afterwards the newspaper reported that the specimen had been added to the beautiful and scientific collection of Philip Rashleigh.  It is recorded there as gold specimen number 112, and is the last gold specimen listed in his catalogue:

"Native Gold found in Carnon Stream work in Cornwall..."

Chemical Formula: Au

Specimen no. TRURI: 1903.1.3178
Location: Carnon Stream work


Additional images
  • Gold nugget 5 cm in length
  • Royal Cornwall Gazette March 5th 1808
  • Royal Cornwall Gazette February 6th 1808
  • Royal Cornwall Gazette February 6th 1808
  • Gold nugget 5 cm in length
  • Royal Cornwall Gazette March 5th 1808
50.223049, -5.084267
About this collection

This Collection focuses on Cornwall and West Devon’s mineralogical and mining heritage.  The specimens it features are drawn from the collection of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (RIC) held at the Royal Cornwall Museum (RCM). 

This collaborative project involving the RCM, the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and The Open University explores how access to the RIC’s mineral collection and the stories it can tell can be widened using digital technology.  It includes radioactive minerals from Cornwall that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public for health and safety reasons.

Sample details

Rock-forming mineral
Category guide  
Category Guide
Refers to any word or phrase that appears in the individual rock names. Names are generally descriptive; they allow users to search for broad terms like ‘granite’ as well as more specific names such as ‘breccia’. However, the adjacent descriptions of the specimens captures a wider range of general words and phrases and is a more powerful search tool.
Refers to any word or phrase that appears anywhere in the descriptions of the specimens
Accessory minerals
Minerals that occur in very low abundance in a rock. They are usually not visible with the naked eye and contribute perhapssver, they often dominate the rare elements such as platinum group metals.
Rock-forming minerals
Minerals that make up the bulk of all rock samples and are also the ones used in rock classi?cation.
Selecting one or more period, for example 'Jurassic'.
A term used to group together related samples that are not already gathered into a single Collection. For instance, there is a ‘SW England granites’ theme that includes such rock types as granite, hydrothermal breccia, skarn and vein samples.
A general term used to label a rock sample. It is a useful way of grouping similar samples throughout a collection. Category names are often, but not exclusively, common rock names (e.g. granite, basalt, dolerite, gabbro, greisen, skarn, gneiss, amphibolite, limestone, sandstone).
The owner of the sample that appears in the collection. For example, NASA owns all the samples that appear in the Moon Rocks collection
We would like to thank the following for the use of this sample: